Thursday, February 27, 2014

H4TV: New England Patriots NFL Draft Needs Clearly in Focus - H4TV SPORTS NEWS

The NFL Draft is still over two months away on the NFL calendar but that is hardly stopping fans and NFL teams from preparing for the event.  Pushed back to May this year, the NFL Draft allows teams to attend more pre-draft activities such as regional combines and pro days.  In addition, it cuts the weeks that a team has their rookies available to them to learn the playbook, study, and get into the shape the NFL team desires them to be in to play in the NFL.
With the Combine finished this week, the NFL teams are able to corroborate data after finally getting their chance to move beyond game film and poke and prod the prospects to assist in finding the next key cog to their lineup. For the New England Patriots that means working to determine what their targets will be in the draft and in free agency in March.  With many questions remaining as to what players are re-signed and what free agents may be signed, the NFL Draft provides cheaper building blocks for New England to add to their roster.
The New England Patriots have a number of needs on both sides of the ball to address in the NFL Draft. Here are a few needs that the Patriots are likely to try and fill through the draft:
The Patriots had an interesting season as their two-tight end offense went from the top unit in football to a slew of rookies wide receivers, some slot receivers, and two most dynamic players not on the field. Tight end Aaron Hernandez was cut in the off-season after his shocking arrest and fellow tight end Rob Gronkowski missed more than half of the season due to recovery from off-season back and forearm surgery and a season-ending knee injury in week fourteen against the Cleveland Browns.
With Gronkowski out of the lineup the Patriots offense dipped to the middle of the pack. CLICK HERE FOR MUCH MORE: New England Patriots NFL Draft Needs Clearly in Focus - H4TV SPORTS NEWS

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Cover32: New England Patriots’ best draft pick at tight end


The New England Patriots are a team that helped define the modern tight end usage in the NFL today. The Patriots introduced the dynamic two-tight end offense in 2010 when they sprung their two rookies, Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, on unsuspecting defensive coordinators. For three seasons, the Patriots rode two of the best values at the tight end position to a Super Bowl appearance and a trip to the AFC Championship Game. With Hernandez behind bars currently, the question becomes if Rob Gronkowski is the best tight end drafted by the New England Patriots in their history.
The Patriots first great tight end was 1975 first round draft pick Russ Francis. The three time Pro Bowl tight end ended his tenure in New England with a bizarre retirement after the 1980 NFL season following a contract dispute. After a year off, Francis came out of retirement to play for the San Francisco 49ersand there won a Super Bowl with them catching passes from Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Montana. He did come back for a year to finish his career with the Patriots.
Before Francis, Jim Whalen was the top tight end drafted by the Patriots as the third round draft pick put together five solid seasons in the 1960s. After Francis, the Patriots had second round draft pick Don Hasselbeck in 1977, ninth round draft pick in 1979 John Spagnola, 1981 eighth round draft pick Lin Dawson, and 1989 third round draft pick Marv Cook manning the tight end position.
The next great tight end for the New England Patriots was a fifth round draft pick in 1991 out of Livingstone college, Ben Coates. CLICK HERE FOR MORE:

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Cover32: Who’s next at the tight end position for the New England Patriots?


The New England Patriots offense revolutionized the NFL when in 2010 they unleashed the duel tight end offense with rookies Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez bringing two distinct but effective styles together on the field. The duo immediately created headaches for opposing defensive coordinators as both had a plethora of skills to be put to use by the creative offensive brain trust in New England. Unfortunately, off-field issues with Aaron Hernandez led to his arrest and release while injury issues have slowed Rob Gronkowski the past few seasons.
Building upon the success of veteran tight ends such as future Hall of FamersJason WittenTony Gonzalez and Antonio Gates, NFL teams have become more aggressive in finding that distinct match-up problem that an elite tight end presents. Unlike Witten, Gonzalez and Gates, New England Patriots tight endRob Gronkowski brings the stout size and blocking ability of a classic in-line tight end with the speed, hands, and vertical threat of a Gonzalez and Gates. With the athletic Hernandez lining up in the joker (off-the-line) tight end position, opposing defenses had their hands full from 2010 to 2012 when playing New England.
Head coach and de facto general manager Bill Belichick was at the forefront of the two-tight end look as early in his tenure in New England he invested multiple first round draft picks on the position. In 2002 he drafted tight end Daniel Graham in the first round (#21 overall) of the NFL Draft and then in 2004 grabbed tight end Ben Watson with the last pick (#32 overall) of the first round. However, neither tight end lived up to their billing as a dual-threat receiving and blocking in their time in New England.
Despite missing half of the 2013 season tight end Rob Gronkowski still had a major impact to the Patriots offense. With his elite pass receiving skills and strong blocking when not out in pass patterns, he out produced a number of his counterparts at the position in 2013 in half the playing time. ranked Gronkowski as 7th in the NFL in 2013 with their DVOA (Defense-Adjusted Value Over Average) while had Gronkowski as second overall in their tight end ratings despite missing half the season. With Gronkowski in the offense compared to without him, quarterback Tom Brady’s passer rating was almost 15 points higher: 95.7 with Gronkowski in 2013, 80.9 without him (per
The key for New England is finding that second tight end to pair with Rob Gronkowski and provide that match-up problem. With the surprise loss of Aaron Hernandez the Patriots were stuck with blocking tight ends in reserve such as Michael Hoomanawanui and Matthew Mulligan as promising undrafted free agent Zach Sudfeld flamed out early in the season. Without Gronkowski due to injury and with Hernandez released, the two-tight end offense appeared to be gone...CLICK HERE FOR MUCH MORE:

Monday, February 24, 2014

Cover32: New England Patriots need to add a pass rusher this off-season


The Patriots have their work cut out for them as they try to position the team to compete for another Super Bowl run after falling short in the AFC Championship Game the past two seasons. With the Super Bowl championship drought up to a decade now, New England’s window to win with quarterback Tom Brady is starting to close. After losing to Denver, the Patriots were able to sit at home and watch the Seattle Seahawks in the Super Bowl show the nation the impact of a premier pass rush and how it can disrupt even a great quarterback.
With the upcoming draft and free agency the Patriots need to find players to make an impact on the field immediately. While rookie wide receivers Aaron Dobson and Kenbrell Thompkins, defensive backs Duron Harmon and Logan Ryan, and linebacker Jamie Collins all made an impact on the field at some point in 2013, none were a consistent contributor. Integrating young players via the draft can take time, so the Patriots need to choose carefully to be certain that their selections can get on the field and contribute as soon as possible.
Free agency is where New England had problems last season as they struggled to bring in impact players. The best additions were the players who were on the team in 2012 who were brought back (slot receiver Julian Edelman, tight end Michael Hoomanawanui, cornerbacks Aqib Talib and Kyle Arrington, and offensive tackle Sebastian Vollmer). Unfortunately, the free agents brought in during the off-season were duds.
Slot receiver Danny Amendola was injured (no surprise) throughout the season. The Patriots brought in veteran wide receivers Donald Jones, Michael Jenkins, and Lavelle Hawkins and none of them made the roster. Third-down running back Leon Washington played a total of 14 snaps before being cut after being injured most of his tenure in New England. Tackle Will Svitek was also bit by the injury bug and was limited when there was a need on the offensive line. On defense, free agent safety Adrian Wilson was injured in the preseason and missed the entire season.
Where the Patriots struggled in 2013 was in rushing the quarterback. While defensive end Chandler Jones had some flashes throughout the season, the Patriots lacked the consistent outside pass rush opposite him from veteran Rob Ninkovich. With a number of free agents available at defensive end, a pass rusher to line up opposite Jones would be a good pickup for New England to consider.
The draft has been a nightmare for the Patriots in regards to finding pass rushers...CLICK HERE FOR MUCH MORE:

Friday, February 14, 2014 Should the Patriots re-sign cornerback Aqib Talib or find a replacement

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The New England Patriots face a number of questions in the off-season and one big question revolves around the secondary. Cornerback Aqib Talib is a free agent and New England must decide whether to bring him back or let him walk.  Even letting him walk, there is the decision if New England needs to find a shut-down cornerback in free agency to take his place or hand the job to young cornerbacks Logan Ryan and Alfonzo Dennard. With his injury history in New England, is it smart for the Patriots to bring back Talib or find another option at cornerback for 2014?

Cornerback Aqib Talib is a key free agent this off-season and the Patriots have a hard decision as to whether they re-sign him. On one hand, when healthy he proved to be a catalyst to the defense that bumped them from very good to elite.  Even with his hip injury the past two seasons, his presence alone on defense seems to make the secondary stronger just by being able to keep fellow cornerback Alfonzo Dennard in the number two role outside and cornerback Kyle Arrington inside on the slot receiver where he thrives.

As shown numerous times over the past season-and-a-half with Talib in New England, when he is unable to play the defense struggles. This season against Denver in the AFC Championship Game with Talib for the first two drives the Broncos were held to a field goal and their only punt of the game. Once Talib was knocked out of the game with the knee injury from the pick by Denver wide receiver Wes Welker the Broncos feasted on Dennard and rookie Logan Ryan in the secondary.

It was eerily similar to the AFC Championship Game the year before against Baltimore where the Ravens did not score a point until Talib left the game injured. Once he was out and the secondary was disrupted quarterback Joe Flacco began attacking the secondary downfield.

One thing made clear in this season’s AFC Championship Game was that rookie Logan Ryan and second-year cornerback Alfonzo Dennard are not ready for primetime as the top two cornerbacks...CLICK HERE FOR MORE:

Thursday, February 13, 2014

H4TV: Co-Hosting the The Zavoluk Show -- 2/12/2014

More Sports Podcasts at Blog Talk Radio with H4TV NEWS on BlogTalkRadio

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Cover32: A history of New England’s strong running back legacy

The New England Patriots have a long and storied history in both the AFL and NFL. One given for the Patriots has been a tradition of having a strong running game. More often than not, the New England Patriots have sported a high-quality home-grown running back. That is part of what makes it so very difficult to determine who was the best historical draft pick at running back in New England Patriots history.
There are a number of running backs who jump out in the memory of fans but just miss the cut. In the 1980s the Patriots rode the duo of Tony Collins and Craig James. Cult favorite Mosi Tatupu was a goal-line battering ram during that time as well. First-round bust Reggie Dupard stands as a “could have been” from that time and possibly one of the most disappointing draft picks in an era of poor drafting.
In the late 1980s and early 1990s the Patriots had the trio of first round draft picks at running back in John Stephens, Leonard Russell, and later Robert Edwards. All three had periods of great seasons, but none of the three were able to maintain the consistency found in great running backs. Edwards, after a great rookie season, blew out his knee at a silly Pro Bowl beach football game and ruined a promising career.
In the early days of the AFL in 1961, the Patriots drafted running back Tommy Mason in the first round, but lost out when he was chosen as the top pick of the NFL draft and chose to go to the Minnesota Vikings. Carl Garrett had a strong start to his career in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, but failed to maintain success. More recently, the Patriots have had young running backs Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen contributing to the team’s success.
Going back to the early days, Patriots running back Jim Nance set the standard for the team. Selected in the 19th round (#151 overall-around the end of the fifth round today) in 1965, Nance was the embodiment of a “big bruising back.” He led the team in rushing for six season and in 1966 rushed for 11 touchdowns, over 1,400 yards, and was the AFC Player of the Year (MVP). He finished his career in New England with 45 rushing touchdowns and 5,323 yards rushing.
The team rushing record for yards still belongs to the Patriots star running back of the 1970s: Sam “Bam” Cunningham. CLICK HERE FOR MUCH MORE: Miami Dolphins: Revisiting and Grading the 2013 NFL Draft

Continuing the off-season series revisiting the 2013 Draft for all 32 teams with an analysis and grading of the Miami Dolphins picks 

Miami Dolphins: Revisiting and Grading the 2013 NFL Draft

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Cover32: Should the Pats keep Blount, Ridley, and Vereen?


The New England Patriots are coming off a season in which the team finished in the top ten in the NFL in rushing yards during the regular season, building off of a solid 2012 season that saw running back Stevan Ridley break out as a potential star at running back. The Patriots in 2012 rushed for an average of 136.5 yards per game.
In 2013 the Patriots rushed for only 129.1 yards per game as they ran into issues with interior offensive line blocking and excessive fumbling by the running backs. However, that was still good for ninth in the NFL and allowed New England to make it to the AFC Championship game yet again. This year, the main ball-carrying duties were carried out by incumbent Stevan Ridley and young veteran LeGarrette Blount.
Running back LeGarrette Blount came to New England in a draft day trade with Tampa Bay. In exchange for sprinter Jeff Demps and a seventh round draft pick, the Patriots picked up Blount and revitalized his NFL career. The Patriots got 772 yards rushing from Blount and 773 yards rushing from Ridley in the regular season. They each scored seven touchdowns apiece.
With Blount and Ridley, the Patriots have a one-two punch that is hard to beat. Add in the shifty Shane Vereen and the Patriots have a trio of running backs capable of big plays and consistent play. Unfortunately, there is the issue that breaks up more teams than any other issue in the NFL: money.
Running back LeGarrette Blount is an unrestricted free agent this offseason with no guarantee of returning to New England....CLICK HERE FOR MORE:

Sunday, February 09, 2014 New England Patriots: Standing Pat on Offensive Line Is a Bad Idea

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With the off-season upon the New England Patriots visions of free agents and trades for big-name playmakers are dancing through the heads of fans and media talking heads.  However, before looking outside the team, there are questions to be addressed internally with the Patriots own free agents.

Jeff Howe at the Boston Herald reports on the likelihood of offers made to the Patriots internal free agents. One particular internal free agent, center Ryan Wendell, seemed to be rated a little high by Howe.  From Howe:

Pats’ plan: They know a 6-foot-2, 300-pound center won’t break the bank in free agency, so they might start low (say, three years, $7.5 million) but probably won’t need to screw around too much. Keeping the starting line intact after Dante Scarnecchia’s retirement should be a priority in this transition stage.
Wendell’s plan: Wendell probably wants something similar to Dan Connolly’s deal (three years, $9.75 million), and that’s fair. Centers aren’t big-ticket items on the open market, so seeking leverage in free agency might even be a gamble that could yield unfavorable results.

Right now, Dan Connolly’s deal looks horrible. New England got very little bang for their buck from Connolly. In 2012 Connolly was average at guard and outplayed by Donald Thomas.  Thomas signed with Indianapolis and despite being younger and a better player the Patriots were stuck with Connolly due to their overpaying him previously.

In 2013 Connolly was even worse and is likely to be released in this here for more:

Saturday, February 08, 2014

Cover32: Pats have surprises in store to free up salary cap space

The New England Patriots will soon turn to free agency and the draft as they attempt to put a trying 2013 season behind them and focus on taking the next step and getting past the AFC Championship Game and back to the Super Bowl. To do so, the team has a number of moves to make to improve on both sides of the ball. The Patriots need to clear some space on their salary cap and make some better decisions in free agency.
That said, there are always surprising decisions made by the Patriots when it comes to the final roster. Last offseason saw the release of productive (if maddening) wide receiver Brandon Lloyd and the departure of Wes Welker to Denver. Running back Danny Woodhead was deemed too expensive as he went to San Diego. Also, safety Patrick Chung went to Philadelphia. Add in the release/retirement of Deion Branch and the bizarre Aaron Hernandez saga leading to his release.
The NFL salary cap is far from a hard cap, as there are numerous ways for teams to free up some cash. According to Miguel Benzan who is now at, New England has about $7.3 million in salary cap space while factoring in dead money, the rule of 51 salary numbers, and the carried-over cap space from 2013. There are a few moves that seem like no-brainers, such as dumping disappointing defensive tackle Isaac Sopoaga and saving $2 million in cap space (all cap numbers from and guard Dan Connolly saving $2.5 million in cap space, but there are other moves that may require some tough decisions.
The first is defensive tackle Vince Wilfork. It seem odd that the Patriots could think of releasing him, but with Tommy Kelly due back (at a $3 million dollar cap hit) and impressive Sealver Siliga at defensive tackle, Wilfork is not providing bang for the buck with his $7.5 million base salary and counting $11.6 million against the salary cap. Youngster Armond Armstead should be back for training camp after missing all of 2013 and youngster Chris Jones and Joe Vellano should be back as well.
Simply releasing Wilfork saves $7.5 million against the salary cap and will be tempting to the team management...FOR MUCH MORE CLICK HERE:

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Cover32: Best quarterback ever drafted by the Patriots not named Tom Brady


In a way, this is the easiest historical draft pick of the New England Patriots to select as the “best” for the position. Tom Brady was a sixth round draft pick—#199 overall—taking the job from a former number one overall pick and becoming the only quarterback in franchise history to win one, let alone three, Super Bowl championships. In addition to that, he set NFL single season records for touchdowns and led the team to the only undefeated 16 game season in NFL history. It would be hard to find a draft pick better than that on any team for any position.

That said, in the spirit of creating a lively debate, the question becomes: Who was the New England Patriots’ best draft pick at quarterback OTHER than Tom Brady?

The Patriots did not have a long track record of drafting quarterbacks. Multiple Super Bowl winning quarterback Jim Plunkett was drafted number one overall in the 1971 NFL Draft but his success took place after leaving New England. Hall of Fame quarterback Fran Tarkenton was drafted in the fifth round of the AFL Draft but never took a snap in New England, instead heading to the NFL. Number one overall pick Jack Concannon was a local hero from Boston College but spurned New England and the AFL for the NFL.

In the 1970s, the Patriots drafted quarterback Steve Grogan in the fifth round in 1975 and long-time backup Matt Cavanaugh in the second round in 1978. Grogan held the team passing records and was the primary starter for many years. While Cavanaugh went on to a long career as an offensive coach and coordinator, Grogan eventually shared the job with 1983 NFL Draft first round draft pick Tony Eason.

While Eason and Grogan led the Patriots to the Super Bowl, the pick of Eason is mostly remembered due to New England passing on Miami Dolphins’ legendary quarterback Dan Marino to pick Eason. After a number of disappointing quarterbacks (including drafting and trading Rich Gannon, who they tried to move to another position and who later went on to lead Oakland to the Super Bowl and win a regular season NFL MVP at quarterback), the Patriots found first overall pick of the first round of the 1993 NFL Draft arrived in New England. Click here for much more:

H4TV: The 2014 Boston Red Sox Balance Short Term Success and Long-Term Growth - H4TV SPORTS NEWS

The 2014 Boston Red Sox Balance Short Term Success and Long-Term Growth - H4TV SPORTS NEWS

2014 Boston Red Sox maintain the status quo for the most part in the off-season as they try to balance competing for the World Series while building a pipe-line of talent for the future.

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Cover32: Believe it or not, the Pats need a new quarterback


The New England Patriots finished their “rebuilding” year in 2013 with a 12-4 regular season, the AFC East title, and a trip to the AFC Championship Game. Despite an almost entire overhaul of the offense, the team kept finding ways to win games and put themselves in position for a first round bye in the playoffs. A key reason the team was able to work in new receivers and overcome key injuries was the consistent play and clutch performances from their future hall-of-fame quarterback, Tom Brady.
Of course, with Brady signed through 2017 and basically having the option to play as long as he wants as he continues to perform at a high level, the Patriotsdo not have the huge need of some teams at the most important position. However, with backup Ryan Mallett entering the final year of his rookie contract, the Patriots have a need to determine what their long-term plan is behind quarterback Tom Brady.
Back in 2008, the Patriots lost quarterback Tom Brady in Week 1 to untested backup Matt Cassel. The Patriots, on the back of a strong defense and a dominant offensive line, managed to overcome the inconsistent play of Cassel and won eleven games (missing out on the playoffs on a tie-breaker). Cassel was able to utilize the strong play of wide receivers Randy Moss and Wes Welkerto parlay himself into a big contract after being traded with aging linebacker Mike Vrabel to Kansas City for a second-round draft pick.
With the precedent set with the trade of Matt Cassel, there has been speculation since the end of last season that New England would be willing to trade Ryan Mallett to a quarterback-needy team. With the NFL Draft approaching, there are many such teams that may consider trading for Mallett and keeping their high first round draft pick to fill another need (or trade down for multiple picks). Of course, they need a trade partner.
The Cleveland Browns have long been identified as a potential trade partner for Mallett. With general manager Mike Lombardi a long-time fan of Mallett, speculation has run rampant since he took over in the beginning of 2013. And with the success that former Patriot backup Brian Hoyer had before being injured, Mallet likely has the inside track in Cleveland. For much more click here:

Monday, February 03, 2014

Buffalo Bills: Revisiting and Grading the 2013 NFL Draft

It's officially the NFL Off-season ... time to go around the league at First Stop Fantasy and prep for the NFL Draft by looking back and re-grading the 2013 NFL Draft. Part one of 32 kicks off with the AFC East and the Buffalo Bills.

Buffalo Bills: Revisiting and Grading the 2013 NFL Draft New England Patriots’ Top 2019 NFL Draft Picks Show Evolution on Both Sides of the Ball

The New England Patriots may have tipped their hand with their first two 2019 NFL Draft picks. Choosing a bigger, more aggressive outside-...